May 29th, 2014

Win one of two $50 Amazon Gift Cards

As you might have heard, my new book Momnipotent: The Not-so Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood is officially released from from Ascension Press. The accompanying Momnipotent study for parish-based women’s groups has just become available as well.

Because I am really excited about sharing these new products with Catholic women, I am here to ask for your help in doing so. But I am offering you chances to win something free and fun in exchange. Deal? Deal!

The fun and free thing you can win is one of two $50 Amazon gift cards. I will be giving away two $50 gift cards, and you can qualify to win one of them in the following ways:

1. Write a review of Momnipotent on Amazon. If you don’t yet have your copy, you do have some time (this giveaway runs for 3 weeks). You can even get your hands on an instant copy with the Kindle version.

2. Write a review of Momnipotent on your blog.

3. Order a risk-free review of the Momnipotent study starter pack for your parish. The free review offer is a program for priests, religious, DREs, teachers, youth ministers, and others authorized to make purchase decisions for a parish, (arch)diocese or school who are located in the continental United States. If you are not an authorized decision-maker at your parish, you can qualify for the giveaway by bringing this opportunity to the attention of someone at your parish who is.

That’s it! Those are three ways you can qualify to win one of the two $50 Amazon gift cards. You can do just one of them for one chance, or do all three and earn three chances in the random drawing. Once you have done your part, simply leave a comment here indicating the number of chances you have earned. Oh! And if you already did any of the above things before this giveaway was posted, that definitely counts for a chance.

I will draw two winners at random on June 23 and announce them here in this space. Thank you for your participation and good luck to you!

May 16th, 2014

Momnipotent Study — Official Trailer

I am so excited to share this video which gives you a sneak peak at some of the video elements of the Momnipotent Study — soon to be released!

March 20th, 2014

Incoming: Momnipotent

My dad was visiting this past weekend and in the process of discussing book promotions, he asked me about blogging.

“You never do blog anymore do you?”

“No.”

“Because it’s a waste of time?”

Well now, there’s a question. Blogging may not be the hippest platform authors use to promote their books, but it surely is not a waste of time for anyone who enjoys blogging, or reading blogs, or commenting on blogs, or whatever else you kids are doing with blogs these days.

I have only not been writing here because at the end of every day, I am fresh out of time. And also, with the growing young people under my roof, fresh out of material that is fit for blogging. No toddler ever cried foul when his mom posted pictures of him in the tub (not that I did that!) but older kids have a real right to privacy (except on Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat where they post absolutely everything — but it’s what they’re CHOOSING to share — you see the difference, I am sure).

But anyway, I thought I should update this space with a bit about my latest project with Ascension Press: Momnipotent, the book and the study.

You are participating in the daily discussions at Momnipotent, aren’t you? You can also sign up to get the posts sent to your email inbox, if that works best for you.

The book (read an excerpt!) and parish study (order a risk-free preview for your parish!) will be released this spring and are now available for pre-order. I am so excited to share them with you! Here’s a little promo that tells you more about the project.

October 23rd, 2013

Requiem

[I found an old photo of Kateri and her beloved pet Speckly on my computer recently and posted it on Facebook. Seeing it made a friend recall and request this old column of mine about the two of them. So here it is.]

It finally happened. I was dreading this day. Speckly is dead.

For those who didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her while she was alive, I should explain that Speckly was a Speckled Sussex hen. That’s right, a chicken. A charming, mottled brown and white feathered hen with an affinity for grasshoppers and Japanese beetles. And at 5 years old, she was a quintessential old biddy.

Years ago, when Dan and I decided to let the kids raise a flock of laying hens, we never could have anticipated the antics and attachments that would follow. We’ve combated carnivorous creatures from foxes to raccoons. We’ve encountered swooping owls and sharp-eyed hawks. We’ve had rowdy roosters that loved the children but would have gladly eaten me for lunch. We’ve had Houdini hens who kept us devising ever more elaborate systems of cooping and containment. We’ve had the high drama of nursing ailing chickens back to good health, one medicine dropper at a time.

And we’ve had fun. Lots of it. We’ve had the pleasure of pampering the “ladies” with cool bubble baths on hot summer days, the thrill of treating the flock to cake and ice cream on high feast days, the joy of giving hens rides in sleds, wagons, and bicycle baskets, and the excitement of hatching baby chicks from eggs and watching them grow … into a new generation of raucous roosters and happy hens.

The coop has seen many birds come and go through the years, but none were as important to my oldest daughter as her beloved pet Speckly. Speckly was Kateri’s very first pet. The first animal she called her own and named all by herself. The first animal she loved.

Of course we knew this day was coming. When the kids called to me this afternoon with shouts about the hen’s demise, I dreaded the task that lay ahead. I walked to the coop in sober silence, opened the door to a nest box, and found the old bird. Her feathers were ruffled and dirty. Her eyes were closed. When I lifted her into a bag, her body was stiff and heavy. As I carried the hen across our field, several children followed at my heels. We stopped at an appropriate gravesite and I cut into the soft earth with a shovel.

Dust to dust. This was just a chicken, I thought to myself as I dug. Just a chicken. But one look at my daughter’s swollen eyes told me there was more to it than that.

Worse than any pain we might experience ourselves are the sorrows we parents must watch our children suffer. We want to protect these small souls. And yet we want them to love — to embrace every good thing with all their tiny hearts — and to love means to risk the pain of loss.

All were quiet as I turned over the soil. I paused and let Eamon help with the digging while somber Stephen stood alongside, his eyes squinting in the late day sun.

When the burial was complete, I suggested a prayer.

“Thank you God,” I began.

And then what I wanted to say was: Thank you for the foretaste of heavenly joy you give us through even your smallest creatures. Thank you for helping us to understand that to love means to risk getting hurt, but that it’s worth loving anyway. Thank you for the gift of free will, so that we might choose to love you, a choice that will never cause us pain or sorrow. Thank you for the reminder that we all must die one day and that we should live this life with the next in mind. Thank you for the gift of eternal life, for loving us unworthy humans so perfectly that you were willing to die on a cross in order to win us victory over pain, death, and sin forever.

But I choked on those words. I couldn’t say them. And yet, somehow, as my children’s small hands pressed the soil down upon that grave, as they fixed a handmade cross of sticks and string upon that mound of fresh earth, I think they understood these words as clearly as if I had said them. Sometimes the most important lessons we learn are ones that go unspoken.

“Thank you, God,” was all I managed to say.

And my children, with unwavering voices, answered, “Amen.”

October 20th, 2013

Just Plain Messy

My high school physics class never made much sense to me. In fact, there is only one thing I learned in that class that still sticks with me after all these years–the idea of entropy or the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Systems tend to go from a state of order to a state of maximum disorder.

Finally. After endless pages of meaningless numbers and symbols and equations, here at last was something that actually made some sense. In fact, the truth of this law has only become more evident to me in the years since high school. A house containing small children is one of the clearest examples of entropy you could ever hope to find.

Toy boxes overflow. Kids’ closets don’t stay organized. The ability of my kitchen counters to collect and grow junk never ceases to amaze me, and once a week, when I give my bathroom a thorough cleaning, I am astounded by the fact that–once again–it really, really needs it. Left to their own devices, messes multiply: Toys scatter, juice spills, and dirt accumulates. If I don’t constantly work at returning things to a state of order, the house will always end in a state of maximum disorder.

It occurred to me recently that this same principle of entropy applies to our spiritual lives as well as the physical state of the universe. If we don’t work continually at improving ourselves and making advances in our prayer lives, we drift all too easily in the opposite direction, toward chaos. Small faults and neglects, if not attended to, eventually lead us into bigger sins, and then still larger ones follow from those. So, the tendency of our homes and our children toward disorder is a healthy reminder. Choose carefully: By work or by neglect, we are all moving in one direction or the other.

October 17th, 2013

Own a Piece of Church History

You can support our work at Catholic Digest and own a piece of Church history. Order your copy of the Catholic Digest special commemorative issue — Pope Francis: The People’s Pope. This stunning, full-size, 54-page, photo-filled issue is available for only $4.95, with bulk rates as low as $1.95 available for your parish or group.

There are a limited number of copies available of this special issue. Order your copy today.

October 16th, 2013

We’re all blind

Well, I’ve been reading homeschooling articles again. Homeschool Blindspots by Reb Bradley was a recent one that made me think, and bookmark, and then go back and read again. Mostly because it made me uncomfortable. Which could be a good thing. We all need to be challenged sometimes.

But then, I am not sure I can take any more challenging right now. I’m pretty tired.

I’m tired of being second-guessed and being encouraged to second-guess myself. I’m tired of feeling defensive of the fact that we homeschool because of the assumptions other people — even the homeschoolers — make about us based on that label alone. And though it’s been years since I was young and arrogant enough to believe I had this parenting thing all figured out, I am tired of being warned about all the ways that, despite my good intentions and exhaustive efforts, I am very likely failing.

Nobody ever sold me homeschooling as a panacea for worldly temptations and sin. From almost the very beginning — no, scratch that, truly from the very beginning — I have seen its flaws and weaknesses and shortcomings all too clearly. They haunted me. They still do.

I am tired of the “Ah-Ha’s” and the “See, I told you so’s” I hear from all corners of the internet, and even in my own head sometimes, when the inevitable happens and older kids from even those “very good homeschooling families” fall into sin, or reject their parents’ values, or mess up and rebel in typical teenager-ish ways.

But mostly, I am just tired. Tired from late nights and early mornings. Tired from the mash-up of draining demands of big kids and little kids and middle kids times eight, with a home, marriage, and job thrown in for good measure.

So tired that I tear up when I read Bradley’s description of how he and his wife regret putting discipline and outward appearances before love in their own family, despite the fact that I know these failures have little to do with homeschooling. The blind spots described here are not homeschooling blind spots; they’re human ones. We’re all blind. We all judge when we shouldn’t, make selfish and prideful decisions, fall down in our faith, and fail at love.

We all get tired.

But God doesn’t throw our children into our arms and tell us, “Hey, good luck with these! You’re all they’ve got!”

We are not all they’ve got. Thank you God for that.

Tonight, after re-reading about blind spots, I made my tired way into the kitchen where I found a greasy mess from dinner that moved me almost as close to tears as the blind spots did. I grabbed a sponge and began scrubbing the stovetop. While I scrubbed, my oldest returned home from an evening out with friends and filled my ears with cheerful descriptions of the events of her day.

Tired or not, in that moment there, I had strength enough to clean a stovetop, one greasy spot at a time, and give attention to my happy daughter.

I don’t have enough love for a lifetime. Not even close. God doesn’t give me all the grace I need for a great big lifetime in this great big family all at once. He knows I would waste it. He gives me love enough, and grace enough, for right here, right now, one greasy little spot at a time.

I’m tired, but I am filled.

October 1st, 2013

Small Steps Blog Tour!

(beginning today at an internet near you)

You can win books!

You can participate in a cute and funny contest!

Did I mention winning books?

Would you like to win this fabulous collection of Catholic Mom books, each signed by its author?

Of course you would. For your chance to win, go to CatholicMom.com and share the funniest (or most effective!) way you manage to get five minutes alone.

Because five minutes is all you need to “do” Small Steps for Catholic Moms. You can do this.

And you can even win a free copy of the book to get you started, five little minutes at a time.

The Small Steps Blog Tour begins today, with the awesome Lisa Schmidt at the Practicing Catholic. Thank you, Lisa!

The rest of the tour is scheduled as follows:

October 2 – Rachel Balducci at Testosterhome
October 3 – Ginny Sheller at Small Things
October 4 – Barb Szyszkiewicz at Franciscan Mom
October 5 – Grace Snow at Uncommon Grace
October 6 – Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things
October 7 – Pat Gohn at The Back Porch
October 8 – Ginny Moyer at Random Acts of Momness
October 9 – Christine Johnson at Domestic Vocation
October 10 – Martina Kreitzer at Catholic Sistas
October 11 – Simcha Fisher at I Have to Sit Down
October 12 – Elizabeth Scalia at The Anchoress

I want to thank our lovely blog hostesses and the very nice folks at CatholicMom.com for organizing this whole tour and being so darned encouraging and supportive as we work to get word out about Small Steps for Catholic Moms. I hope you will participate in the tour, enter to win (multiple ways, multiple days!), and begin your journey toward a closer relationship with Christ … one small step at a time.